Sitka displayed a champion's resolve Thursday in winning the inaugural Southeast Conference tournament 6-5 over Juneau-Douglas at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
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Wolves slugger E.B. Crow blasted Clae Baker's one-out offering for a three-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh. Crow's bomb completed Sitka's comeback after trailing 5-1 to start the bottom half of the inning.
"I felt it off the bat and it was great," Crow said. "It's the best feeling I've ever had in my life."
Sitka, the defending state champions, mounted the comeback after managing just one single off starter Andrew Hall in the first six innings.
Hall began the seventh with a single and a walk, and his pitch count hovered near 100 pitches. Juneau-Douglas coach Jim Ayers replaced him with the 6-foot-5 Baker.
With runners on first and third, Baker got Chili Rivera to pop up for the first out. The reliever then induced a ground ball from leadoff hitter Erik Buggins, but a fielding error by the JDHS shortstop loaded the bases.
Kevin Conway cut Juneau-Douglas' lead to 5-3 with a towering two-run double that was misplayed in the outfield.
Crow then made his mark on the inaugural tournament. The power hitter watched Baker's first offering for a strike, then rocketed his next pitch deep into the warm spring air. He immediately threw up his arms after making contact. The ball sailed into the trees in straight-away center field.
"We had one out and two opportunities to get them out," Ayers said. "We didn't make the plays. We gave them two more chances and they took advantage of it. That's what they've done. When we've won, we won because we didn't give them more chances. When we've lost, it's because we gave it away."
Hall earned a no-decision in the loss. The junior allowed three earned runs off two hits in six innings with eight strikeouts and eight walks.
He also played well defensively. Up 3-1 with two out in the fourth, he fired a wild pitch. But catcher Nano Jacobsen tracked down the ball and fired to Hall, who tagged out Bryn Calhoun trying to score.
"You have to give Andrew Hall a lot of credit because he was just flat tough all day on us," Sitka coach Ed Conway said. "What we were trying to do was make him throw a lot of pitches and he did that."
Until the final inning, it appeared Juneau-Douglas would force a rematch later that evening.
Derek Listberger doubled and scored off Nano Jacobsen's RBI ground ball to put JDHS ahead 1-0 after one inning.
Calhoun's sacrifice fly tied the score in the second. JDHS immediately struck back in the bottom half of the inning, as Joe Kohan singled and scored on a throwing error.
Buzz Ward sacrificed Sean Lindsay home in the fourth. Kohan scored on a wild pitch and Corey Mahar hit an RBI single in the seventh to put JDHS ahead 5-1.
"A couple guys were worried but we told them there's always hope," Crow said. "There's always a chance."
Buggins pitched the full seven innings for Sitka.
The sophomore, who catches when he's not pitching, scattered seven hits, struck out six and walked five in the win.
"Usually when we pitch him, we pitch him early in the week, but in this tournament we had no choice," Ed Conway said. "We had to do what we had to do, and he was great all day."
With the win, Sitka will defend its state championship on June 2 in Fairbanks.
Juneau-Douglas, however, must wait until next season to get a crack at the state tournament.
"It's hard, things just didn't go our way," Hall said. "We'll have a good team next year. We have a good future."
Juneau-Douglas 9, Ketchikan 4
Juneau-Douglas received four strong innings from sophomore Joe Kohan to stay afloat in the Southeast Conference tournament.
Kohan allowed two hits and one run in the four innings, striking out four batters while walking none in the process. Buzz Ward allowed two hits, two walks and two runs in three innings of relief.
Competing for their playoff lives, the Crimson Bears delivered a disciplined performance.
JDHS didn't allow one unearned run and walked just two batters in the contest.
Nano Jacobsen led the Crimson Bears at the plate with a 3-for-4 effort with two RBIs.
Pedro Mojica went 2-for-4 with two RBIs while Corey Mahar scored twice and Geoff Craig added a run scored.
After both teams exchanged runs in the first inning, JDHS took control in the third.
Kohan and Jacobsen slapped back-to-back RBI singles to put the Crimson Bears ahead 3-1.
Ward belted a two-run homer in the fourth for JDHS while Craig, Mahar, Dakotah Smith and Ward all came around to score in the fifth inning.
Ricky Grams got a run back for the Kings in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI sacrifice, driving in Nick Martin.
Keevin Craig singled and scored in the seventh for Ketchikan but the Kings got no closer.
Ryan Beason went 1-for-3, Ward had two hits and two RBIs and Pat Kohan added an RBI single in the win.
For Ketchikan, Grams went 2-for-3 with an RBI in defeat.
Trevor Norton contributed an RBI single, Cody Hanas scored and Brian Tara singled for Kayhi.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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